Kichiku (Banquet of the Beasts) Review
My thoughts on the film can be found in my review of February last year. Based on the Dutch R0 DVD from the Japan Shock label Kichiku has since been released in both the USA and United Kingdom through Artsmagic. This review looks at the USA R0 Artsmagic DVD offering and includes a comparison with the Japan Shock alternative.
Picture and Sound
As noted on my review of the Japan Shock release Kichiku was shot on a tight budget using old equipment and composed in a 4:3 Full Frame aspect ratio. The additional bonus material found on the Artsmagic release offers further insight to the film stocks used, with the finished product varying between the free, cheap and nasty film offered by the University and additional, higher quality Kodak and Fuji film that was purchased as part of the budget raised. What this all boils down to for the consumer is a transfer which doesn’t look particularly stunning, with numerous dirt and grime present be they a result of dirty lenses or low quality film stock. Furthermore the level of detail seen throughout is minimal at best, with signs of colour bleeding and smearing seen here just as they were on the Japan Shock equivalent.
Comparing the two the Artsmagic effort offers a noticeably sharper presentation, with deeper black levels, bolder, more appealing colours and better overall shadow and colour delineation. It still looks fairly rough but is a definite improvement over the disc I looked at early last year. This improvement comes at some cost, with signs of some minor edge enhancement creeping through, though nothing which bothered me on a large widescreen display.
Some comparison images follow...
|Left: Artsmagic / Right: Japan Shock|
|Top: Artsmagic / Bottom: Japan Shock|
For the steps taken forward in the visual department Artsmagic have taken several back with the audio options presented. As the films student origins will attest Kichiku is no audio extravaganza, but its dulcet use of folk guitar and otherwise solid stereo mix has been dropped here in favour of a 5.1 remix. Some may feel I’m snubbing a remix just for the sake of it, but this is nothing more than the same audio being pumped through each speaker with some added bass from the subwoofer channel. This means that unless you tell your amp or DVD player to down mix to front channels only you’ll be subjected to a nasty echo throughout the films running time.
On recent efforts Young Thugs: Innocent Blood and Nostalgia they included similar ill-fated 5.1 mixes, but did the right thing by including the original untouched audio tracks. No such choice is offered here with only the 5.1 on offer, it’s passable with some audio tweaks but that isn’t the point.
Optional English subtitles are provided and prove to be a massive improvement over the Japan Shock release, completely free of errors and synched correctly to the dialogue.
An entire disc of bonus features shows that Artsmagic are continuing to evolve as a publisher, going above and beyond to provide audiences with unique extra content in the same way fellow British studio Hong Kong Legends have been doing for some time now.
The set begins with the same 30 minute making of documentary found on the Japan Shock set, which I described as consisting purely of behind-the-scenes material shot during the production that focuses heavily on the films second, more effects heavy half and offers much insight as to how the graphic results were achieved. What it also shows is that much fun was had on set despite the macabre nature of the film while the slightly unprofessional nature of students also shines through with frequent laughter and even the breaking of wind at an inopportune moment. As with all the bonus content in Japanese on this disc English subtitles are provided.
Reaction to Kichiku is an eight-minute featurette boasting archival footage of the director accepting honours at the Taoramina film festival, he and actor Tomohiro Zaizen discussing the project at a related press conference and from an unrelated and unknown source, actor/director Akira Terashima (best known for his work alongside Beat Takeshi) discussing his thoughts on Kichiku. None of this is particularly riveting with it all having a very promotional, pre-ordained feel, but its worth a once over.
Having delivered several worthy commentary tracks to previous Artsmagic DVDs Japanese film expert Tom Mes sits down in front of the camera to give an introduction to Kichiku. Overly long at twenty minutes Mes starts off very well, discussing the inspiration for the project and the circumstances in which it was filmed. Things begin to falter when he starts referring to his notes, pausing frequently from here on in as the introduction moves into a plot outline followed by critical reception to the film and finally looking at what the director has done since. With Kichiku covered it's then time to look at what other talent has developed from Osaka University of Arts, welcome information that is only hurt by the editing which, had it been superior, could have disguised the breaks in Mes' flow.
A series of recent, specially filmed interviews follow. Director Kazuyoshi Kumakiri is first in the hot seat and gives a thirty-minute insight to his graduation project and how it came to be. Often intriguing despite Kumakiri's dry delivery and constant sniffling eager filmmakers and hardcore gore fans alike should find something of interest within his comments, where he details the production and gives honest reasons behind the extreme violence featured throughout. An unfortunate subtitle glitch 19-minutes in does little to ruin the proceedings, though does result in two-minutes worth going untranslated.
Kiyoaki Hashimoto, the film’s cameraman and a close friend of Kazuyoshi Kumakiri is next and in his own reserved way proves to be an interesting choice, bringing more to the discussion when he focuses on his relationship with his director than when he is queried on his own career. Giving some insight to the working methods of both he and Kumakiri this interview runs for a generous 17-minutes though it could probably be half that if Hashimoto would only stop pausing and clearing his throat.
The final interview session takes place with four of the principal actors, also good friends at the time of shooting and it would seem now as well. Initially the discussion is a little stale as the group dynamic you might hope for is stunted by questions aimed at the individuals, but they soon begin to open the floor with everyone offering stories from the set and having a jolly good time doing so. From stories of stealing underwear to the disturbing, possibly illegal videos Kumakiri had in his possession at the time the conversation is always compelling and often humorous, making this one of the standout contributions on the disc. The actors featured are: Tomohiro Zaizen, Shunsuke Sawada, Kida-san and Kentaro Ogiso.
A Biographies/Filmographies section presents a fairly informative 4-page section on the director but only a filmography for Shunsuke Sawada. That's it unfortunately; no one else from the cast or crew is covered.
Rounding out the disc is the original theatrical trailer, which unfortunately means one of the film's most important actors (Sumiko Mikami) is nowhere to be found on the disc commenting on her uninhibited performance. Strangely her contribution rarely comes up in the other interviews, leaving you to wonder if there is some bad blood as a result of the film or relationships once held.
An excellent extras package, superior picture quality and much improved subtitles just about make up for a lapse in terms of audio quality. We really shouldn’t be required to alter our speaker output in order to enjoy a DVD but in this case it's worth the effort, as Kichiku is a much better prospect with some enlightening insight through the bonus materials on this Artsmagic release.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 10:27:28